PBS Is Over the Rainbow

NPR reported today that PBS is ending Reading Rainbow--the award-winning show dedicated to books and reading--after 26 years of being on the air.

If you learned to read during the 80s--and discovered, too, that once you started reading you couldn't stop--I'm pretty sure you loved Reading Rainbow. (At least until your parents shipped you off to summer camp or you discovered music videos.) I did--a whole lot--and hokey hallmarks of educational programming aside, I can still look back at that show and appreciate it all the same. I loved having a story read to me, especially as a newly latch-keyed 8-year old, and it was fun to find out what other kids were reading. But I won't bore you with the details of how it ruled my daily school's-out schedule--let's consider instead that now-famous catch line, about not having to take anyone's word for it: isn't that at the heart of how we talk about books? Why one person loves a book and another person loathes it is by and large pretty subjective, but any reader worth her salt still wants to know what you think.

It's a sad day for Omnivoracious thirtysomethings.

What made me sadder, though, was reading the (typically) astute report from NPR about why it's going off the air. Funding, yes, is a big part of it, but also that there's a much larger need now for shows that teach kids how to read:

"Research has directed programming toward phonics and reading fundamentals as the front line of the literacy fight. Reading Rainbow occupied a more luxurious space — the show operated on the assumption that kids already had basic reading skills and instead focused on fostering a love of books."

I can't argue with that focus, but at the same time, if you don't inspire a love of books and storytelling in kids, how much of a bedrock can you create for reading skills? I'm not an educator, or a parent, and I don't pretend to speak authoritatively in this space. I just find it hard to separate the "how" from the "why."

The Rainbow is gone. Long live the Rainbow. I'll leave you with a clip of the opening sequence--love it or hate it? There are many, many episodes to choose from on YouTube and I'm afraid I don't have enough time to spend this afternoon in the Way-Back Machine to select a really choice one for you, but a quick scan does remind me that there were a lot of episodes involving LeVar Burton biking. I guess he'll have a lot more time for that now. --Anne

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Comments (2)

I will totally miss the Rainbow. :(

Posted by: Mary Akers | Sunday August 30, 2009 at 3:13 PM

How sad...I loved Reading Rainbow when I was younger. And what is the point of teaching kids how to read if they are not given the love of reading, which was the very point of Reading Rainbow. As a parent and an educator I cannot even begin to explain the importance of loving to read and how many of today's kids are not feeling the love.

Posted by: audiokabel | Monday September 21, 2009 at 3:05 AM

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